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Avatar: The Way of Water
Film information
Directed by

James Cameron

Produced by

Jon Landau
James Cameron

Written by

James Cameron
Josh Friedman


Sam Worthington
Zoë Saldaña
Joel David Moore
Sigourney Weaver
CCH Pounder
Stephen Lang
Kate Winslet
Cliff Curtis
Trinity Bliss
Jamie Flatters
Britain Dalton
Jack Champion

Music by

Simon Franglen


Russell Carpenter[1]

Editing by

James Cameron
David Brenner[2]
John Refoua[3]
Stephen E. Rivkin[4]


20th Century Fox, Lightstorm Entertainment

Distributed by

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Release Date(s)

December 16, 2022[5]

Running Time





$250 million [6]

Gross Revenue


Preceded by


Followed by

Avatar 3

Avatar: The Way of Water is the first of four planned sequels to the 2009 film Avatar, set to be released on December 16, 2022. The film has been under development since 2010, and completed preproduction in 2017, with much of the motion capture and principal photography completed by early 2020.[7] With filming having concluded in September 2020, the film is now in postproduction.[8]

A teaser trailer for the film was shown in 3D on April 27, 2022, during Walt Disney Studio's presentation for CinemaCon 2022 and began showing publicly on May 6, 2022, in-line with the premiere of Marvel Studios' Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.[9] It was released online on May 9th.[10] On June 17, a slightly altered version of the trailer began showing in theaters in front of PG-rated films, starting with Disney Pixar's Lightyear. This version of the trailer has an alternate shot of a military avatar walking through the jungle and the scene of Jake on a skimwing was edited to have him hold a spear instead of a gun.[11][12]


Jake and Neytiri's children

Set more than a decade[13] after the events of the first film, Avatar: The Way of Water follows the journey of Jake Sully and Neytiri's newfound family of five children. Despite their best efforts to keep their family together, a familiar threat resurfaces and forces Jake, Neytiri, and their children to flee to the land of the Metkayina clan in the Pandoran oceans.

Avatar: The Way of Water's plot will be a fully-encapsulated, standalone narrative, as will the other sequels, but will also be part of a meta-narrative that extends across Avatar: The Way of Water, Avatar 3, 4 and 5.[14][15]


Left to right- Britain Dalton (Lo'ak), Filip Geljo (Aonung), Jamie Flatters (Neteyam), Bailey Bass (Tsireya), Trinity Bliss (Tuktirey), Jack Champion (Javier "Spider" Socorro), & Duane Evans Jr. (Rotxo)




  • Oona Chaplin as Varang, described as a "strong and vibrant central character".[30]
  • CJ Jones as an unknown supporting character; Jones also developed a sign language for the Na'vi to use in the film.[31][32]


James Cameron had previously stated that the film will likely not be entitled "Avatar 2", since Jake is no longer an avatar at the end of the first movie, but rather a Na'vi.[33] No final title had yet been announced officially, but an April 2016 press release featured a new "Avatar" logo (found in the infobox at the top). Additionally, a November 2018 BBC article claimed that the title would be Avatar: The Way of Water. Cameron later explained in a February 2019 ET interview that the title was one of many under consideration and no final decision about titles had been made yet.[34][35][36]

On April 25th, 2022, the Polish branch of Disney announced that the Polish name would be "Istota Wody", translating to "The Essence of Water" in English.[37] Avatar: The Way of Water was later confirmed to be the final, English title during Walt Disney's CinemaCon 2022 presentation.


“I’ve had a storyline in mind from the start — there are even scenes in Avatar that I kept in because they lead to the sequel... It just makes sense to think of it as a two or three-film arc, in terms of the business plan. The CG plants and trees and creatures and the musculoskeletal rigging of the main characters — that all takes an enormous amount of time to create. It’d be a waste not to use it again.”

- James Cameron, 2010[38]


Solo scriptwriting (2010-13)[]

Avatar: The Way of Water's story, schedule and scope evolved dramatically over the course of its development. The core team participated in numerous interviews throughout 2010, detailing their ambitious plans to produce a sequel with a much shorter production time and a lower budget than the original. Cameron hinted that the heroes will venture to some of Polyphemus's other moons in the film, an idea that was ultimately removed from the story.[39] Another interview from the time stated that it would contain volcanoes[40] and would take place several years after the events of the original film.[41]

An early unused story idea for Avatar: The Way of Water was later reused for the comic book The High Ground. The High Ground version may well have been the script Cameron wrote solo up to 2013, before Friedman's involvement.[42]

Writing with Friedman (2013-17)[]

Josh Friedman, co-writer.

Cameron continued writing the script alone through at least February 2013,[43] but announced that summer that he would be co-writing the film with Josh Friedman. Throughout the following years, the story was redefined and expanded, in part due to "overwriting", and the vision for the franchise slowly shifted from a trilogy to a pentalogy.[44] The "characters, settings and creatures" for the film were "pretty much set" by December 2015.[45]

In 2013, James Cameron also stated that the style would be influenced by the master navigator culture of the small pacific civilizations of Micronesia. He was exposed to these cultures during his time on these islands during preparation for his dive in the Marianas Trench.[46] In 2018, Cameron said that the Metkayina clan, an oceanic-based clan of Na'vi introduced in Avatar 2, were "abstractly" based on Micronesian culture. Scriptwriting concluded in 2017.

Developing Technologies (2014-17)[]

A brief glimpse of the studio, as shown at the 2015 D23 Expo in Japan.

Avatar: The Way of Water's production faced several technological challenges including underwater motion capture. Traditional optical motion capture struggles with reflections from the surface of the water, for example. This was circumvented with a layer of plastic balls on the surface- which blocked the light while still allowing cast members to push through to breathe.[47]

Significant technological development took place during the years of scriptwriting. The underwater motion capture technology was only at the drawing board level in 2014 but was ready by the time the scripts were completed in 2017.[48]

In January 2017, James Cameron stated that he was transitioning from writing to the "active prep" process, with motion capture filming planned for August and his involvement in production every day up until then. Cameron also mentioned the motion capture volume was already running and design work was completed.[49]

In August 2017, Cameron confirmed that the sequels were in "full tilt" production, with actors going through the virtual sets to help give Cameron information on the scale, position, and lighting for scenes. After the virtual "scouting" shoots, Cameron entered rehearsals with the principal cast at the end of September.[50]


Principal Photography (2017-18)[]

Principal photography commenced in California on September 25, 2017, and ran until October 2018.[51][52] Avatar: The Way of Water and Avatar 3 were shot back to back, and are planned to go through post production sequentially, in a "two and two structure" that will also be done for Avatar 4 and 5.[53] Portions of the sequel were shot at 120fps, though Cameron indicated that the framerate may intentionally change from scene to scene.[54] Two months after filming began, Disney announced its purchase of Fox, including the rights to Avatar 2.[55]

On November 14, 2018, James Cameron confirmed that the main cast of Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, and Kate Winslet had finished principal photography on Avatar: The Way of Water and Avatar 3.[56]

Underwater Motion Capture (2017-19)[]

Underwater motion capture, 2019

The first successful run of the underwater motion capture technology, after extensive testing, took place on November 14, 2017. The scene involved featured the new generation cast, who were trained for six months so that they could hold their breath for long periods. As a result, the cast can hold their breath within the two to five minute range and act underwater without the need for scuba gear. Cameron was quoted as being very pleased by the capture data results, saying that they "have basically cracked the code" on underwater motion capture. A small test tank was being used with plans to move to a larger tank in January.[57] The underwater scene featured dialogue in "a kind of sign language". Kate Winslet, who plays a character from the same clan as the new generation cast, also underwent similar free-diving training as she insisted on doing all her own water work.[15]

Addressing misconceptions that Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 were finished filming entirely, Cameron clarified during an interview for Empire released in February 2018 that filming was only finished for the principal cast that were in performance capture only, which were "the vast majority of the characters and the vast majority of the running time for the film".[19] It was later confirmed in May 2020 in an ICB260 feature that Jack Champion was also part of the lead cast group that finished performance capture.[58]

In a February 2019 interview for Collider, Jon Landau confirmed that performance capture on Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 was complete, with some partial performance capture done for Avatar 4. Second unit tank work concluded in March 2019.[59]

Photography (2019-20)[]

Image from the set, released October 2019.

Landau stated that live-action filming would start in spring 2019 in New Zealand.[60] This was further emphasized by Landau in another February 2019 interview with the LA Times, with the performance capture done for Avatar 2, Avatar 3, and parts of 4 described as "principal capture".[61] During the Empire Podcast, it was mentioned that live-action filming will start in April 2019 and that Edie Falco was cast specifically for the live-action filming. Cameron said that the live-action filming would last five months, covering both Avatar 2 and Avatar 3.[19] The film used the Sony Venice camera system.[62]

Filming was suspended in early 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but resumed in May after New Zealand had all but eradicated the virus. This made it the first major Hollywood picture to resume filming after the lockdowns of early 2020. In an interview with Lightstorm's senior vice president of Production Services and Technology, Geoff Burdick, IBC365 stated that the "last stage" of live-action photography was being completed at that point.[63] Cameron indicated that filming was complete by September.[64]


Visual Effects (2017-)[]

On July 31, 2017, it was announced that Weta Digital had commenced work on the Avatar sequels.[65] Virtual production was underway in Los Angeles by 2020, with the coronavirus pandemic halting further work in the area.[66]


On March 7, 2019, The first footage of Avatar 2 was shown to Disney shareholders during a meeting in St. Louis, Missouri. It's unknown what was shown specifically or how finished the footage was.[67]

Editing took place under David Brenner, James Cameron, John Refoua, and Stephen E. Rivkin. Brenner joined the project around 2021 but passed away the following year.[68]

Soundtrack (2019-)[]

During pre-production James Horner was billed to return to compose the sequel. When asked about his involvement with the ongoing franchise in April 2015, James Horner stated that he would stay with it through its entire run "If I last that long".[69] Tragically, James Horner died in a plane crash in June 2015.[70]

With the film still two years away from having a completed script, a new composer was needed - the post remaining unfilled as late as March 2019.[71] Simon Franglen, who had collaborated frequently with Horner in the past, was publicly announced as the new composer that December.[72]


The Avatar Facebook page announced the start of production and a revised release date on April 22nd, 2017.[73] From that date onwards, the project has been regularly promoted on social media.

Pandora: The World of Avatar serves as both a promotional platform for the sequels and a physical reference point for the Avatar cast and crew. As the sets for the movies are digital, cast visits to the theme park attraction help provide a sensory experience that wouldn't normally be obtained through motion capture shooting on a sterile set. The scenery for the park also provides a backdrop for photoshoots featuring the cast. The first photos of the "new generation" cast were taken at the park along with video, similar to original cast photo and video taken when the attraction first opened.[74][75][76][77]


We weren’t wasting time, we were putting it into tech development and design. So when all the scripts were approved, everything was designed. Every character, every creature, every setting.

- James Cameron, 2017[78]

To date, the release has been moved seven times,[79] from its original date in December 2014 through to December 2022. Five of these delays occurred before the start of production in 2017, while the remaining two were caused by wider events during production- namely the Disney acquisition of Fox in 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

During pre-production[]

In October 2013, shooting plans were for fall 2014,[80] and intended to be shot before Alita: Battle Angel (2019).[81] Filming ultimately commenced in September 2017, over five years behind the original plan.[82] Cameron held a pragmatic view about the delays, as crucial tech development and design were done in the time it took the scripts for the four sequels to be written.[15]

Five of the delays took place during the pre-production phase of development, prior to the completion of the scripts and designs in 2017. One of those delays was subject to speculation of a clash with The Last Jedi, which had in turn been rescheduled into the same slot.[83]

During production[]

The remaining two delays took place during production. The first of these was in May 2019, when Disney reorganized their theatrical release slate in the wake of their acquisition of Fox. Among many other franchises, this purchase included Avatar. The changes affected all of their major franchises and delayed all Avatar sequels. The slate as planned at the time involved a Star Wars movie and an Avatar movie alternating in the Christmas slot until 2027, with Avatar releases in 2021, 2023, 2025 and 2027.

This 2019 slate was revised again a year later, as the coronavirus pandemic hampered production efforts across the industry. While Avatar 2 was largely being shot in New Zealand, which was all but Covid-free until early 2022, virtual production in Los Angeles was slowed by the situation. The Avatar Twitter account confirmed the seventh delay on July 23rd, with a formal slate-wide announcement taking place the following day. A large group of Disney-owned films including Star Wars were delayed a full year in the same announcement.[84]

Days remaining until Avatar: The Way of Water, going by then-current release dates over time. Spikes represent delays.

Release Date Changes
Announcement date Release date
October 10, 2010 December 2014[85]
September 10, 2012 2015[86]
August 2, 2013 December 2016[87]
January 14, 2015 Summer 2018[88]
April 14, 2016 December 2018[89]
March 9, 2017 No firm date[90]
April 22, 2017 December 18, 2020[91]
May 7, 2019 December 17, 2021[92]
July 24, 2020 December 16, 2022[93]


Avatar: The Way of Water has been confirmed for an IMAX release as well as the regular format.[94]

In other media[]

During the initial announcements for Pandora: The World of Avatar in 2011, James Cameron stated that the theme park would include elements from the second and third movies.[95] The park opened on May 27, 2017; approximately four and a half years before the release date of the second film.


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